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Republicans battle over party seat

By Staff | Dec 13, 2008

A disagreement over a party loyalty oath that could result in Lee County’s state Republican committeewoman losing the seat she won in August will be resolved by the party’s grievance committee or a court of law.
Marilyn Stout, an active member of the Republican Party for the last 15 years, was elected as the party’s committeewoman in the Aug. 26 primary with 73 percent of the vote, but will not take the office due to a spat over the party’s loyalty oath.
Gary A. Lee, chairman of the Lee County Republican Executive Committee, said Stout’s opponent in the primary race, Brenda Skupny, will take her place instead.
Alterations to the original loyalty oath to the party were made in June. Stout signed the original one in May.
Stout, who has since signed the proper form, says she knew nothing of the new oath and that Lee had ample time to tell her about it but chose not to because he favored Skupny in the race.
“He had a perfect time to tell me about the loyalty oath. He did not tell me because Brenda was his choice,” Stout said.
Stout said she and Lee had a brief conversation about 20 minutes before the Lee County Supervisor of Elections’ noon deadline on June 20 to file as a candidate for the primary.
Lee agrees there was a conversation minutes before the filing deadline but says Stout created her own problem when she failed to either pick up an elections packet from the committee’s qualifications chair or checked online with the Department of State where the proper qualification attachments could also be found.
He called the assertion of a mystery oath “a fiction.”
“Had she gone to the credentials committee, she would have been given a packet,” Lee said Friday.
The modified oath was required by state party leaders and it is they that set the deadline for signature, Lee said, adding the Lee County committee did include it in its packets.
“The filing for qualification rests with the candidate. We do everything we can to see they file properly,” he said, pointing out that every other candidate for both state and precinct positions picked up a packet and filed properly.
“She did a tremendous disservice to herself,” Lee said.
Stout said she will file a complaint with the party’s grievance committee, and, should that be fruitless, a lawsuit.
“I said ‘I was elected with 73 percent of the vote, if you don’t seat me I’ll have to file a grievance,'” she said.
Although the changes made to the loyalty oath were minor, Lee said the voter’s choice and the oath are equally important and believes Stout will not be seated as committeewoman.
He has no problem with allowing the grievance committee to resolve the issue.
“That is fine; they’ll look at the facts,” Lee said.
Meanwhile, Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the County Courthouse calling for Lee to resign.
The Lee County Republican Executive Committee, under Lee’s leadership, also backed Judah’s opponent in the Republican primary, Anita Ceraceda.
It’s an example of what Stout calls the “divisive” politics Lee has brought to the local Republican brand.
Lee, just reelected as chairman for his third term, (he ran unopposed) does not intend to resign.
“I was just renewed, and I’m delighted to do it (serve as chair),” Lee said, adding the local organization has “quadrupled membership” during his tenure.
Neither Skupny nor Judah could be reached Friday for comment.
Messages left were not returned by press time Friday.